Twitter popularity doesn’t always make sense

The inimitable Shaquille O'Neal.

Perhaps in the wake of crazy man/actor Charlie Sheen’s meteoric rise through the Twitterverse, Yahoo! Sports compiled a list of the top 10 most popular athletes on Twitter (determined by the number of followers one has).

The rundown:

1. Shaquille O’Neal
2. Kaka
3. Serena Williams
4. Cristiano Ronaldo
5. Dwight Howard
6. Paul Pierce
7. Chad Ochocinco
8. Reggie Bush
9. LeBron James
10. Nick Swisher

At first glance, the list doesn’t make sense. Where’s Terrell Owens? Tiger Woods? Kobe Bryant?

But when you examine it further, the breakdown isn’t altogether too surprising. A couple of Twitter truisms help to explain the popularity.

1. Success is essential

Every one of these athletes is a near-perennial All-Star. Accordingly, every one of these athletes is a popular and well-known name in sports circles. So when sports fans look to follow certain athletes on Twitter, it’s not surprising that they choose people like Reggie Bush over former Terp and current Los Angeles Laker guard Steve Blake. (Sorry, Steve.)

2. It helps to be good-looking

Kaka, Serena Williams and Reggie Bush aren’t just established names in sports bars worldwide. They’re also fixtures in tabloids. Their well-groomed faces are plastered across the walls of admiring fans across the country. Their high-profile relationships are of a very significant public interest. So while Terrell Owens might be a better player than Reggie Bush, Bush’s dalliance with socialite Kim Kardashian certainly didn’t hurt his Twitter popularity.

3. Randomness rules

A disbelieving shake of the head can be a pretty normal reaction to some of the things seen on Twitter. Nonsensical trending topics take hold out of nowhere, while users take full advantage of their relative anonymity to unleash unbelievable tirades. In other words, randomness is the norm. So I guess it’s not all too surprising to see Nick Swisher, a good but far from remarkable player for the New York Yankees, on this list. Or see that Paul Pierce has more followers than perhaps basketball’s grandest icon, LeBron James. Or that two soccer players occupy some of the highest spots on Twitter, a U.S.-based company.

Fully explaining Twitter, I assure you, is beyond my level of expertise.

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2 Responses to Twitter popularity doesn’t always make sense

  1. The first person I followed when I signed up for Twitter? Chad Ochocinco. Anyone who changes their name to some ridiculous Spanish-language bastardization (probably pursuing pop culture infamy in lieu of transcendent talent on the field) is clearly someone whose tweets will be as exciting as his touchdown celebrations.

    When I pick who to follow, I’m usually just looking for a laugh. So The Big Aristotle probably has good reason for holding down that #1 spot. No one touches the Shaqtus.

  2. jmegill says:

    It’s not hard to see that all of the athletes at the top of this list are all large personalities. This explains why Swhiser is on the list because he has a lovable personality and is on the most important team in baseball. Lastly, only one of the athletes is hated, LBJ. However, unlike someone like Kobe there was a time when most people liked him.

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